Water Rally 2024 Schedule

Alabama Water Rally 2024

Alabama’s annual gathering of clean water advocates

March 15 – 17 | Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama


Click here to read all about the speakers!



noon – 6 pm REGISTRATION at Doug Carpenter Hall

DEEP DIVES from 2 - 5 pm

Presenters:  Alabama Water Watch

Get certified at Alabama Water Rally! First, click here to register for the free training by February 27. Then, you will complete approximately three hours of self-paced online course work that will include content related to water pollution, water quality standards, how to conduct bacteriological testing with the R-CARD ECC-A method, and how to enter and interpret water data. Instructions for enrolling in the online courses are provided following registration.

We will have a field session on Friday, March 15 from 2-5pm at Camp McDowell, immediately before Water Rally. During this session you will have an opportunity to practice the testing methods and complete your official certification.

*Please note, you must register for this training separately from Alabama Water Rally.

Contact AWW with any questions regarding the training: [email protected] or 334-844-4785.

Presenters: Victoria Miller (Alabama Rivers Alliance), Dr. Jillian Maxcy-Brown (University of Alabama), Madelyn Cantu (Alabama Rivers Alliance fellow)

What does the state revolving fund have to do with you? Come learn how water and wastewater infrastructure gets funded in Alabama, how to hold your local entities accountable for upgrading infrastructure, and other ongoing research and projects to solve long running wastewater challenges in Alabama! ARA and our research fellows will provide information for community advocates and can help support your community in demystifying this confusing funding process. Participants will leave with a better understanding of the wastewater landscape in Alabama, the state revolving loan fund program at ADEM and how you can take action and apply this to your community with our educational resource website.


6 – 6:45 pm – DINNER


Presenters: Corinne Baroni, Laura Quattrochi and ARA’s Young Professional River Defenders

Climate Change is real – whether you “believe in it” or not – and it is impacting our communities and our environment in ever increasing ways. This reality and the often too-slow responses from our local, state, and federal leaders is causing — not only physical damage to our planet — but mental and emotional damage to our people. This damage, often referred to as “climate anxiety”, is felt differently across generations. In this always anticipated session led by ARA’s YPRD, you will hear multi-generational perspectives about how climate anxiety and climate change impacts us all, and reminds us how critical it is to understand other perspectives, supporting each other, as we work together to seek solutions to the most pressing existential crisis of our time – climate change.


Following our welcome and opening plenary, please visit our partner tables around the room to connect and network with the many amazing organizations working all across the state to #DefendRivers.


7 – 8 amBirding with Bill Deutsch

8 – 8:45 am – BREAKFAST

9 am – 5 pmREGISTRATION at Doug Carpenter Hall


Presenters: Bradley Davidson (Conservation Alabama), Justinn Overton (Coosa Riverkeeper), William Strickland (Mobile Baykeeper), Charles Miller (Alabama Rivers Alliance)

How does a bill become a law in Alabama? Has Alabama always been controlled by one political party? Alabama’s political history is fraught with interesting characters and plot twists and there is more to passing a bill than you think! Join us for this in-depth – with a dash of satirical Schoolhouse Rocks: Alabama Style – presentation to learn how anything gets done in the Alabama legislature. We’ll also hear the latest updates on The SHOR Act (Safe and Healthy Outdoor Recreation Act) and updates on other important proactive legislation introduced this year, including a living shorelines bill and more!


10:45 – 11:45 am

Presenters:  Joe Jenkins, Kala Bhattar, Ankur Shah, Victoria Miller

Desired outcomes in the environmental space are often easy to identify, such as a de-carbonized future or sustainable agriculture, but how we accomplish these desired outcomes can be a source of strife. Can we work within the system to change it or do we need to tear it down and start all over? This interactive session will challenge commonly-held assumptions and provoke thoughtful, and maybe somewhat uncomfortable, discussion as we struggle to find ways to make the changes we all hope to see towards a just, equitable, and clean environment.

Presenters: Fran Summerlin, Ben Lyon, and Mark Smith

”Save Chandler Mountain!” could be seen and heard all across Alabama this past summer when a group of concerned community members joined together to fight one of the largest corporations in Alabama from destroying their community, their local creek, their land, and their lifestyle. Meet the people who organized their neighbors, leveraged partnerships, did their research, showed up and spoke out so their mountain could be saved. Learn how they Saved Chandler Mountain, and how they plan to continue to work together to save the land and waters in their community for generations to come.

Presenter: James Lowery

Treatment wetlands (“artificial” and natural) are being used throughout the world to treat various types of wastewater including wastewater from municipalities, mining operations, landfills, individual homes (“homesite wetlands”), high schools, college and university buildings, industry, commercial establishments, stormwater runoff, and agricultural operations. This is a nontechnical overview of this environmentally friendly alternative to the treatment of wastewater, how wetland plants clean wastewater, and such facilities currently in operation throughout Alabama.

noon – 12:45 pm – LUNCH

12:45 – 1 pm – GROUP PHOTO



Presenter:  Dr. Emily Grubert (University of Notre Dame) 

This plenary will address major questions about how water is used in energy systems — and specifically, what is likely to change as energy and other systems decarbonize. Legacy resources, like hydropower, nuclear, and fossil power plants, typically have more significant water needs than modern renewables like wind and solar. Simultaneously, new water uses — for activities like critical mineral mining, clean energy technology manufacturing, hydrogen, carbon dioxide removal, and synfuels — could be large, with impacts on both water quality and quantity. Decarbonization is generally assumed to come with dewatering in the energy sector, but this is not necessarily locked in. Questions of how to transition legacy resources, including through processes like changing hydropower operational profiles or adding carbon capture to fossil plants, have water, justice, cost, and many other considerations. Questions of what new systems to deploy similarly carry numerous questions about water availability and impacts, particularly under warming climate conditions with dynamic hydrology.


2:30 – 3:30 pm

Presenter: Sarah Diefendorf and Elaine McCarty (The Capacity Collaborative)

Or is it going right over my head? Identifying and understanding your audience is critical to successful communications. Join us on Saturday afternoon for this fun and experiential session on building a persona for effective messaging.

Session 1 Building a Persona: Who are you talking to and what do they need to hear in order to be moved to action? Elaine McCarty will give a short presentation and then you will build your persona – a fictional representation of your audience. Who are they? What is their life like and how can your cause make their lives better?

NOTE: Part 2 of this training will be from 3:45 pm – 4:45 pm

Presenter: Justinn Overton (Coosa Riverkeeper)  

Join Justinn in a discussion on how to build infrastructure within your organization for growth and changes. No matter if you are with a staffed organization or you’re an all volunteer-led organization, your organization can and will benefit from having a plan to ensure the important work in your organization is not contingent on a limited number of people’s institutional knowledge.

Presenters: Vickey Wheeler (Friends of Big Canoe Creek) and Henry Hughes (Friends of Shades Creek)

The Gathering promotes community conversations, balancing art and science, that foster understanding, tolerance and civility. The annual Environmental Dinner prompts dialogue among artists, scientists, educators, administrators and volunteers, often leading to lasting relationships. In this interactive session, Vickey and Henry will demonstrate the elements of creating a sustainable Gathering in your own community.


3:45 – 4:45 pm

Presenter: Sarah Diefendorf and Elaine McCarty (The Capacity Collaborative)

Or is it going right over my head? Identifying and understanding your audience is critical to successful communications. Join us on Saturday afternoon for this fun and experiential session on building a persona for effective messaging.

Session 2 Honing Your Message: In this session, Sarah Diefendorf will help you learn about effective messaging techniques including incorporating critical values into our campaigns. We’ll then prepare a message campaign for our personas.

NOTE: Part 1 of this training will be from 2:30 – 3:30 pm

Presenter: Carlee Sanford (Ruffner Mountain)

Everyone loves a success story and there is so much to learn from this one. Whether you are looking for ways to fund parks and green spaces in your community, trying to work more with your local government or frustrated with competing for funding with other nonprofits in this sector of seemingly scarce resources, this session is for you! Learn how three organizations in Jefferson County put aside their history and worked together to achieve something historic and much more sustainable.

Presenter: Greg Guthrie (Geological Survey of Alabama)

Recent national news shined a spotlight on the concern of the depletion of groundwater supplies across the nation and several communities in Alabama have experienced challenges over the past year with overpumping of groundwater supplies. What is the state of groundwater in Alabama and how are we working to make sure our groundwater supplies are managed and sustained?


6 – 6:45 pm – DINNER!


Sally Bethea, author and former Chattahoochee Riverkeeper

Sally Bethea is the retired founding director of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in Georgia. For more than two decades, she has worked tirelessly to protect and restore the Chattahoochee River, which provides drinking water for millions of people as it runs from north Georgia and forms the Alabama / Georgia border winding its way into Florida. In her retirement, she has written an enlightening and powerfully inspiring account of her journey titled Keeping the Chattahoochee. Sally’s wisdom and experience makes her the perfect keynote to kick off our River Celebration Awards banquet where we will award heroes like her for their hard work and dedication to protect Alabama’s waterways, biodiversity and our right to clean water. Sally will sign copies of her book after, so be sure to bring some cash!


The Alabama Rivers Alliance devotes one evening at each Alabama Water Rally to those special organizations and individuals who have made outstanding contributions toward river protection in our state.

The highest of the River Celebration Awards is the River Hero Award. This ultimate recognition is given to passionate individuals who have had a profound impact on Alabama’s river movement through their hard work, leadership, and years of service. They go above and beyond to protect our rivers and our communities.


8:30 pm until you drop

Best described as a commanding absurdist string band, the Yellow Dandies combine ace musicianship, distinctive humor, authentic bluegrass and old-time stylings, newfangled experimentation, and a manic energy which keeps audiences hooked, hooting, and hollering for more.


7 – 8 am Birding with Bill Deutsch

8 – 8:45 am – BREAKFAST


9 am – 11 am

ARTIVISM UNLEASHED: Creativity as Catalyst for Change

9 – 11 am

We’re excited for this dynamic panel of creatives as they discuss the powerful synergy between art and advocacy. You’ll be inspired by Evan Milligan, a hip-hop artist and lifelong grassroots organizer, who has shaken the field with his lyrics to educate and inspire everyday Alabamians to embrace civic engagement. You’ll hear from Tina Mozelle Braziel, an eco-poet whose lines echo the urgency of environmental stewardship and activism. You’ll also be compelled to capture your own stories and ones from your communities as Michele Forman, multiple award-winning documentary filmmaker and Southern Exposure Series Producer, shares how she uses her lens to amplify unheard voices. Vickey Wheeler, a celebrated artist, will emphasize the importance of visual arts in conveying messages to a wider audience. Nina Morgan brings her community organizing skills to facilitate community change.


These trailblazers will share their experiences, shedding light on the intersection of art and activism, and how creative expressions serve as catalysts for tangible change.


After the panel, prepare to create! Reminiscent of the elementary school “choose your own adventure” spirit, these “Artivism Stations” invite you to actively engage with your artistic side. Whether you’re drawn to crafting poetry, experimenting with watercolors, molding clay, or creating impactful protest signs, these hands-on activities will empower you to express your unique voice in the pursuit of positive change.



  • The Soft Animal Writing Exercise: Deepen your outdoor experience in this writing exercise that takes tips from Mary Oliver. Led by Tina Mozelle Braziel
  • Signs, Signs, Everywhere A Sign: learn the best ways to make impactful protest signs with Nina Morgan!
  • The One With the Phone Camera: Michele Forman will share tips and tricks for getting great content out of your phone’s video camera!
  • Claying Around: Did you know that clay is the only art medium that uses all four elements: earth, wind, fire and water? Get your hands dirty and make yourself something that is truly all-encompassing! Led by Vickey Wheeler
  • Water You Coloring?: Feeling kinda watered down after the weekend? Paint yourself a lovely reminder of a weekend spent with your new best friends!

Special Thank You to Our Awesome Sponsors!